, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 307-347

Case Markers as Clause Boundary Inducers in Japanese

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The present paper provides evidence that the processing of verb final clauses proceeds incrementally based on local information that becomes available with each word. The results of three self-paced reading experiments are reported in support of the proposal that NPs in Japanese are associated within clauses before a verb is processed. It is argued that a clause boundary is posited whenever case markers prevent two NPs from being part of the same clause, and slow reading times at the second NP are used as supporting evidence. Moreover, clause boundaries induced by case marking can facilitate processing at later points in the sentence as attested to by faster reading times at relative-clause heads. Contrary to previous findings that argued against a subclass of head-driven parsers, the present results are not easily reconcilable with any type of model that delays parsing decisions until a verb is available in the input sentence.